A man who was sentenced to decades in state prison for the shooting death of 10-year-old Ta’Niyah Thomas during a 2014 burglary at a Washington house withdrew his appeal Wednesday.
Douglas Cochran Jr., 23, notified the court of his decision through his attorney, Joe Francis, during a brief proceeding before Common Pleas Judge John F. DiSalle.
“It’s a tragic case,” Francis said following the proceeding. “It’s tragic for the victim, that little girl’s family, and it’s tragic that an 18-year-old put himself in a situation that got far more out of hand than expected. And he thinks about those things every day.”
In 2015, Cochran, formerly of Washington, was given a sentence of 22 to 50 years by then-senior visiting judge Edward Borkowski. Cochran pleaded guilty to charges of third-degree murder, conspiracy, robbery and a drug charge, which stemmed from heroin and other items found in Cochran’s possession when he was detained two days after the March 31, 2014, shooting at a West Chestnut Street apartment building.
DiSalle initially denied two petitions that Cochran prepared and filed for himself under the Post-Convition Relief Act in 2017. The judge ruled that Cochran had missed the one-year deadline to bring the petitions.
Cochran appealed the dismissal to the Superior Court, which agreed the petitions were “untimely” and that Cochran hadn’t argued his case fell into any exceptions to the time limit. The appellate panel did find, however, that the lower court had failed to give him required notice of its intention to dismiss them.
It also found DiSalle had neglected to hold a proceeding known as a Grazier hearing that must be conducted for someone who waives their right to counsel, so it vacated the dismissal and remanded Cochran’s case to Washington County so the hearing could take place.
Cochran went on to retain Francis to review his case before Cochran appeared this week and withdraw his right to the Grazier hearing and all matters related to his bid for post-conviction relief.
During this week’s appearance, Cochran answered a series of questions from Assistant District Attorney John Friedmann about whether he understood his decision before DiSalle accepted it.
All three of Cochran’s co-defendants – Anthian Goehring, 33, Richard White, 23, and Malik Thomas, 26 – also pleaded guilty and received prison sentences.
Police alleged Cochran and Goehring, who was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison, had kicked in the main door of the building at 450 W. Chestnut St., and fired shots through the door of the second-floor apartment of Ta’Niyah’s mother, Shantye Brown.
White, Goehring’s younger brother, and Thomas, a distant relative of the victim, stayed behind in the car outside. White was sentenced to 3 to 6 years in prison; Thomas to 4 to 8 years.
Ta’Niyah, a fourth-grade honor student at Washington Park Elementary and cheerleader, was hit by two bullets and pronounced dead at Washington Hospital shortly afterward.